Foster City: A Dramatic Development – From Marshland to Thriving Planned Community

Aerial View of Foster City Circa 1967

Foster City is one of many balanced and well-planned communities in the United States. The “new city” concept gained popularity as an outgrowth of the post World War II era, and by 1973 there were 50 planned cities in the U.S. It has been noted that the Foster City planned community was possibly the most dramatic and challenging of any. Major engineering landfill achievements were accomplished in that the elevation of the surface of the island needed to be raised 8 to 12 feet. The evolution of the area is quite interesting, especially since it began with 18 million cubic yards of dredged material being imported to lay the foundation!

Foster City began where Frank Brewer once had a dairy farm adjacent to useful salt ponds; hence the name Brewer’s Island. The Leslie Salt Company and the Schilling Estate laid claim to this area and the Morgan Oyster Company controlled much of the shoal area; oyster, clam and mussel shells provided limestone for the cement which helped with the massive development. Looking back to 1958 this was a raw and barren area, but T. Jack Foster and Richard Grant saw amazing potential.

In the early 1960s T. Jack Foster purchased the 2600 acres of marshland and began a venture to convert this area to a planned community. Developers at that time were starting to re-think new town concepts and endeavored to provide more “soul” and individualism to the “burbs”.  Along came engineer Michael McDougall, who began a process with a good plan and stuck to that plan throughout more than 57 years of its fruition; he has been hailed as a visionary.

There would be nine separate residential neighborhoods separate from the industrial and commercial areas. The residential areas would benefit from expansive parks. The man-made waterways gave Foster City a park-like feel that truly helped it stand apart from any other community. The sinuous “Venice-like” lagoon system formed the backbone of the plan and provided inherent beauty to the community. Water sports would be able to thrive all along the waterways. Many people have heard of Eichler-designed homes. There is a well-known concentration of them within Foster City as documented in a book that describes Joe Eichler as an architectural legend. Richard Grant, Duc & Elliot and Kay Homes also became instrumental in the home designs. One by one, each housing neighborhood would take on its own “personality”.

One of Many Scenic Foster City Lagoon Views

Foster City Sunset

After more than a decade of development, Foster City was incorporated in 1971 and Jack Foster achieved his goal and vision of developing a diverse community. Foster City is a story about how a mixture of good timing, vision, creativity, can-do mentality, and true determination can become a success. Foster City has never stopped thriving and has never gone out of the spotlight. In 2012 Mr. Foster wrote a comprehensive book titled, “The Development of Foster City,” available on Amazon.com. Foster City is currently the home to more than 30,000 residents. When searching for quality of life, many have come to regard Foster City as THE perfect place to live, work and play! In future blogs, I will highlight the many quality of life features that draw residents and visitors alike to Foster City.

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This post was written by Rumana Jabeen

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